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Little Smart will be unplugged by 2011

CHINA will stop providing Little Smart services to about 70 million subscribers by 2011, which will leave enough telecommunications frequency space for 3G development, the industry regulator said yesterday.

Little Smart is a city-wide wireless communications technology based on the fixed-line network. Little Smart users enjoy lower rates compared to mobile phone users, but they are often not allowed to make long-distance calls.

By 2011, the current Little Smart frequency will be taken up by China Mobile's 3G network, said the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

The Little Smart service, which used to have more than 100 million users, is now operated by China Telecom and China Unicom.

Little Smart allowed carriers such as China Telecom and China Netcom to expand their wireless businesses when they didn't have mobile licenses.

However, since carriers are now focused on upgrading mobile networks and 3G, they have stopped investing in Little Smart.

By the end of last year, China's Little Smart user base was 69.83 million, compared with 84.54 million a year ago, said the ministry.

Both carriers declined to comment on how to deal with Little Smart's remaining users. The challenge to China Telecom and China Unicom is how to persuade users to transfer to their new mobile networks, rather than to rival China Mobile, industry insiders said.

Shanghai has more than 1 million Little Smart users, according to Shanghai Telecom.

Shanghai Mobile and Shanghai Unicom say they will offer more competitive mobile packages to attract Little Smart users to switch over. Most Little Smart customers are entry-level users and price-sensitive consumers.



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